With Thanksgiving right around the corner and Christmas to follow, it is time to start thinking about 2018. The 2018 legislative session will begin Jan. 3 and I am already preparing for a busy legislative session.
Last year, was the busiest year I have had as a legislator. Many of the bills I worked on in 2017 were passed, but new issues always arise and 2018 will be just as busy. One such issue is the pressing need to update our state’s aging transportation infrastructure.
I serve as the chair of the Missouri Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee and I am also the vice-chairman of the 21st Century Missouri Transportation Task Force. In both of these roles, and in my private life, I have seen the deteriorating condition of our roads and especially our bridges. These groups have been studying multiple ways to enhance transportation revenue and I will be working on this issue during the 2018 session. While I will have a report on the taskforce’s recommendations in December, right now I believe some funding options include referring gas tax increases to a statewide vote and possibly restructuring the Highway Patrol’s funding source so that gas tax dollars currently going to the Highway Patrol instead go towards funding our roads and bridges. As a result, we will need to find a dedicated funding source to fund the Highway Patrol. Most of these options would require a statewide vote.
College affordability is another topic that is important to me. I have personally seen some of our colleges avoid the state-mandated tuition cap by hiking “required fees” to unheard of levels. This kind of gamesmanship hurts our students and our working families and I am going to pursue legislation that ensures students and families know what they are paying for when they begin a degree program.
Some of the bills I have worked on in previous sessions have not yet passed the General Assembly and I will continue working on these priorities during the upcoming legislative session. In 2017, I introduced legislation to increase poaching fines to bring Missouri closer in line with neighboring states and I will reintroduce this legislation in 2018.
Another bill that nearly passed in 2017 would allow Franklin County to join the Bi-State transportation compact and I will continue working on this issue at the request of our local transportation leaders.
In summary, I expect 2018 to be even busier than 2017. The Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee that I chair had more bills referred to it than any other Senate committee in 2017 and I expect even more bills related to transportation to be considered in the upcoming session. Although I know I will be busy, I am looking forward to 2018.
Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.